Sunday, April 28, 2013

Domestic Violence Updated - Evan Stark on Coercive Control

Evan Stark, interview from NDVFRI on Vimeo.

If you would like to know what domestic violence, or intimate partner abuse (newer terminology) is all about, don't look to the Control Wheel or the Cycle of Violence.  These descriptions represent the earliest attempts to understand what goes on behind the closed doors of partner or dating relationships.

They have been supplanted by a much more accurate model called Coercive Control.  Evan Stark, who appears in this video, has been instrumental in researching and formulating this new model.

Please take the time to watch and listen.  He is an excellent speaker as well as knowing the field of supporting victims of toxic relationships inside and out.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gay son of “conversion therapy” founder on coming out to his dad

Have you ever wondered what happens when the children or siblings of famous anti-homosexual advocates tell them that they are homosexual?  These gay disclosures make the news when somebody involved is prominent, for example, Michele Bachmann's half-sister, Dick Cheney's daughter, Oral Roberts' grandson, and the list goes on. 

Here's the fly-on-the-wall recounting of the "I'm gay" moment from Richard Socarides (gay attorney, writer and commentator who served as President Clinton’s senior adviser on gay rights) when he told his father Charles Socarides, one of the controversial founders of so-called gay conversion therapy, that it was time they openly acknowledged what both knew to be true.

Aside from the curiosity factor, this elegant video is worth viewing as an example of how to talk about something difficult with dignity, and how to handle the aftermath.  I would hope to do as well in such a difficult situation.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

One Family Value Needs to Go - Keeping Secrets

Whether it's the family we grew up in or the families we form as adults, under all the stability, commitment, communication, and trivia of daily life lurks the question of information control:  Who gets to know what and when.  We have some mental laundry bins to help sort bits of information, bins with names like "privacy," "need to know," "never to be mentioned even inside the family," and "age-appropriate."  Stuff gets put in those bins with little thought about the consequences, what happens later.  Perhaps we assume it will all come out in the wash, like stains on the laundry.

The purpose of this post is to drag the family secrets subject out of the laundry room and onto the internet, and to suggest that not only do we need to re-assess what secrets we keep within and without the family, but whether secrecy serves any reasonable purpose at all in the current century.  Is it even possible to keep a secret?

Wikipedia defines "Family Secrets" like this:
A family secret is a secret kept within a family. Most families have secrets, but the kind and importance vary. Family secrets can be shared by the whole family, by some family members or kept by an individual member of the family.
The secret can relate to taboo topics, rule violations or just conventional secrets. Issues like homosexuality, adultery, divorce, mental health, crime, substance abuse, physical or psychological abuse, human sexual behavior, premarital pregnancy or cohabitation, alcoholism, or deviance. More simple secrets may be personality conflicts, death, religion, academic performance and physical health problems.[1]
Any topic that a family member thinks may cause anxiety may become a family secret. Family members often see keeping the secrets as important to keeping the family working, but over time the secrets can increase the anxiety in the family.[2] The confidentiality of family secrets revealed by a patient is a common ethical dilemma for counselors and therapists.
WNL:  The view here at WNL is that imagining there is such a thing as a family secret, some fact or occurrence that can be blotted out across generations, is a fantasy.  The reality is that these facts (like dad not being the one who contributed half the genes to some of the kids) or events (molestation, jail time, financial ruin among many others) DO come out, and those who are not in on the withholding of information are more relieved than shocked to know the truth, and incredibly angry at the information withholders for lying to them.

MORE:  "Family Secrets" by Deborah Cohen - If you'd like to know more about Victorian-into-modern secret keeping, with a continuing discussion of the pull between privacy and secrecy, this ground-breaking book is worth reading. (Follow the link to an intriguing review by Kathryn Hughes at UK's Guardian website.)  Here are Hughes' concluding remarks:
What marks out Family Secrets as an important book is not so much its breadth – there are also chapters on race, divorce and family therapy – as its depth. Each chapter has a painstaking architecture of original sources, Cohen having spent years working through the archives of institutions including the Tavistock Clinic and the Edinburgh Marriage Guidance Centre. The result is a clear-sighted investigation into what our forebears felt was private, and what they kept secret – and, most importantly, the difference between the two.
"Keep Grandma Upstairs: Jackie Kennedy’s Family Secrets & The Lie Her Mother Told" by pop culture writer Carl Anthony.  Nothing that will knock your socks off, but a beautifully researched account of how a family used secrets and misdirection to advance the interests of each generation.  She's famous, but I'll bet your family did similar things with their history.

From the famous to the down-home version, blogger Toxic Mom Tool Kit writes a post many can identify with about crazy stuff she was told as a child and some tips on how to look back and evaluate it all as an adult.  She makes a good point when she says "When we don’t go back and review the things we were told about ourselves as children with our adult brains we are risking accepting false information that can limit our whole lives."

And if you are thinking of using the internet to figure out your family tree, here are some tips about the conventions our ancestors employed to show/hide bigamy, incest, and illegitimacy when they kept property, tax, and birth records.  Are you sure you want to go there?

(top, "Snails," art by Lyn Southworth)